Pandemics Can Be Stressful — 5 Strategies To Manage Your Anxiety
I have been having to give myself daily check-ins to reset.
Pandemics can be stressful. Prolonged isolation, fear of a new disease, dealing with the stressors of working from home with kids running around, or the financial stress of job loss is enough to give anyone anxiety. It certainly doesn’t help that the news gives us contradicting information and focuses primarily on negative news.
As someone with a history of anxiety, I have been having to think about how I manage my anxiety on a daily basis. I’m indoors too often, I’m working a full-time demanding job while at the same time trying to home school a four-year-old. Well, that’s not entirely true. Mostly I’m just making sure he doesn’t break everything or accidentally kill the dog while playing ninjas. He also likes to join in on my Zoom work meetings, which is entertaining, but absurdly anxiety-inducing, especially when the Zoom meeting is with my boss. What it boils down to is I’m out of my routine, which always throws me off on all levels. I’m not getting enough exercise, I’m snacking too much, and I get no alone time. I need my alone time.
Back to the point, I’ve been thinking about anxiety a lot, and I hope my experience can help those of you out there facing the same anxieties right now.
I’ve had anxiety since I was a kid in my single digits. I have an idea of what it stemmed from, but I can’t be sure. We switched schools when I was 5 or 6 and for the first time in my life, I felt rejection — a new school, new people I didn’t know, leaving my old friends. It has lasted with me, obviously for the last couple of decades. Per usual, this led to emotional disconnection and a general dislike of sparking connections with people. After all, you can’t be rejected if you don’t insert yourself. It’s amazing how one singular moment in your life, even one as small as being rejected on the playground, can remain with you for a lifetime. It led to anxiety.
I managed it well for quite a while, but only because I acknowledged I had a problem that needed to be addressed. Also, because I took the time to identify my triggers and created a plan customized to address my specific anxiety-inducing issues.
I have a few triggers that I won’t get into, but the one that amplifies all the others is my inability to quiet all the noise in my head. I’m sure you have heard the metaphor, but my mind is full of a hundred plus different tabs that I am processing at all times of the day. I have a hard time shutting down the noise.
But, over the years, I have come up with a few tricks to calm it down:
I’m an insomniac. I’ve always been an insomniac. When I was a kid I would stay up to watch the late and late-late talk shows until very early morning or just lie there and ruminate. Again, I just couldn’t shut it down. So, I started writing late at night when everyone else was sleeping. One, it gave me something to do. Two, it turned into a way to express all the many emotions and thoughts that would run through my mind all day. It became cathartic. I craved it. I even wrote a book. No, it’s not perfect. I’m working on a revision. But, it was fun! Then, I started a blog. Now, I’m working on book two. At this very moment, I’m typing this from my bed.
2- Working out
Working out saved my life during my postpartum depression. It continues to even now with my anxiety. Typically, I prefer running but my treadmill broke, and it’s too humid and hot right now in Charleston. So, I’m currently settling with an elliptical, lightweight training, and YouTube workouts. Do enough that you are sweating too much to worry about anything else. But, the real key is to breathe and focus on your movements.
Exercising reduces the stress hormones and releases endorphins, the stress-busting hormones that make you feel so fantastic after a hard work out. Stretching relieves tension on your muscles, improving your movement, and further relieving pain. If you are not one to regularly workout, start off slow. With patience, you will not only see physical results, but your mind will also be more clear and anxiety levels less.
3- Lose yourself in your hobbies
It is not true that you can have too many hobbies. If it makes you happy and takes your mind off stressful situations then more the merrier. It is even better when you can include family or friends. Whether it is sewing, kayaking, or putting puzzles together, take the time to indulge yourself and lose yourself in your hobbies. Find the time to bring yourself joy.
4- Listen to music
Listening to the music soothes the mind and body and absorbs your attention. It also has “a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.” Classical music normally has the best results, but it depends on the person and your mood. On a particularly moody day, you might find me jumping from classical to pop-rock.
Imagine cozying up on a comfy couch beside a roaring fire with a hot chocolate and a good book. Utter perfection! Just typing this made my heart sing. Don’t get me started on walking into a library or bookstore. Books have a wonderful way of pulling you into exciting and fascinating worlds. According to new research, reading just six minutes has the ability to reduce your stress levels by more than two-thirds.
Pandemics are stressful. Fortunately, you can partake in these activities safely during our current challenge. The key is to use these tools to retrain your mind, to remind you to slow down and focus, and to bring you back to doing something you love, which is easy to lose when you are constantly anxious. The strategies above might not be perfect for you, but I encourage you to search for a therapy that works best for you.
Originally published at http://lauraebaize.com on July 17, 2020.